Through eleven games this season the Boston Bruins have an unimpressive 5-6-0 record. Even worse is the fact that they have not been above .500 since Game 2 of this season and they are dealing with some major injuries to their defense core. Tuesday's third period collapse was very uncharacteristic and raised everyone's awareness of just how much this team is struggling right now. Expectations in Boston are a Stanley Cup, but the Bruins currently stand outside of the playoffs. The season is still very young, but is it time to panic yet?
At the beginning of the season, the concern was about goal scoring. The Bruins' top lines were not producing and the fourth line was a disaster. Since the return of Gregory Campbell, the fourth line has been mostly solidified and they are contributing to the scoring sheet.
The return of David Krejci has been big for the top line as Krejci and his line-mate Milan Lucic are currently the top two scorers on the team.
The third line has been the most consistent one all season on offense as Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg are tied for third on the team in scoring and Louis Eriksson is contributing as well.
The inconsistencies are with the second line. Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith are off to slow starts and Patrice Bergeron is not his usual self posting only one goal and a minus 2 through eleven games. If this line plays to their potential and the other lines continue to perform, the offense will keep improving and provide steady goal scoring each night.
The problems now are with the defense and goaltending. The loss of Johnny Boychuk to start the season put more pressure on the young players to perform and the veterans to stay healthy. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the injury bug has come early and often to Boston's back end. Zdeno Chara is out for another month at least while Kevin Miller is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and Tory Krug is sidelined for 2-3 weeks with a finger injury.
What is even scarier is that the Bruins' most injury plagued defensemen, Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid, are now playing even more minutes. If either of these players miss significant time, the Bruins have a big problem.
Tuukka Rask has also been inconsistent and as my colleague Mariah Scafidi pointed out, Rask needs to be stellar every night during this injury plague. It does not help that Matt Bartkowski has seemingly forgot how to play defense and his teammates continue to struggle with moving the puck out of their own end. If the Bruins are ever going to go on a winning streak, Rask needs to get back to his Vezina winning form and his defensemen must improve.
With the new points system in the NHL, games are harder than ever to make up. The early season standings are usually a good indication of what they will look like at the end of it. The Bruins have played more games than any other Eastern Conference team and their division rivals are separating themselves from Boston. If the Bruins are going to compete with Montreal, Tampa Bay and Detroit in the standings, they need to put together winning streaks right now.
The Bruins still have seventy-one games to play in the regular season so pressing the panic button right now is not necessary. The core players with the big paychecks need to step up and take control of this team's direction. They would be wise to right the ship tonight in Buffalo and use the game as a springboard to get above .500 and stay there. If nothing has changed after ten more games, Peter Chiarelli may need to throw another grenade in that locker room and shake things up.
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